Objectifying cues during exercise in female non-exercisers: A lab-based experimental induction


Based on tenets of objectification theory, women's experiences of sexual objectification in exercise contexts may negatively impact exercise experiences and discourage engagement. Objectification may be experienced as verbal commentary that emphasizes bodily appearance versus function during exercise. To empirically test this theoretical proposition, a lab-based experimental study was conducted examining the acute effects of appearance- versus function-based verbal cues during exercise on indices of self-objectification and exercise engagement among young women non-exercisers. Young adult novice exercise women were recruited to complete a short aerobic workout on a treadmill. Eligible participants (N = 102; Mage = 20.2 years, SDage = 2.1 years) were randomly assigned to one of three verbal exercise cue conditions: an appearance-focused, a function-focused, or a neutral condition. Participants completed a baseline assessment of trait self-objectification, and a post-manipulation survey examining psychological states (i.e., self-objectification, body shame, social physique anxiety, flow, and interoceptive awareness) and exercise engagement (i.e., intent to exercise, exercise enjoyment, exercise motivation). Exercise enjoyment was significantly higher in the neutral condition compared to the function condition [F (2, 95) = 5.155, p = .007]. Exposure to an objectifying exercise environment did not significantly impact the psychological experiences of non-exercising women. Exercise environments that are body-neutral may lead to greater exercise enjoyment. Future research should examine the underlying relationships between self-objectification and exercise experience to promote sustained participation in young women.

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council